There’s good news from the White Coats. The existence of Higgs boson (the God particle, stupid!) has now been proven. Many champagne corks were popped and I imagine that God in his Heaven was visibly shaken, and immediately set about preparing His abdication speech. I feel for Mr Higgs though. Anatomically, a man with a boson has neither one thing nor the other. Still, I guess a man without one is less than a shadow – a mere potentiality. And there’s more good news. Supersymmetry itself, once under a cloud, is presumably now a reality, such that the quark is indeed partnered by the squark (the latter is not be confused with the antiquark which, as far as I can gather, is another entity altogether).
This news comes after a recent round of experiments conducted with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland. With a budget of some 7.5 billion Euros (last time I looked), the LHC is not the sort of thing you would want to run in to on a dark night without a cheque book and a good reference from Standard & Poor’s. Still, the price is nothing compared with the results it might provide. It may, so they say, re-create the conditions pertaining just milliseconds after the Big Bang. This gives a whole new dimension to that clichéd term ‘more bang for your buck’. For 7.5 billion Euros, we can expect a bit more than a penny bunger, I should think. I have to say though, that I would prefer to know about the conditions pertaining just milliseconds before the Big Bang.
If, like me, you are somewhat confused about hadrons, quarks and squarks then you could try Wikipedia for a dumbed-down version. Here is a sample:
A quark is an elementary particle and a fundamental constituent of matter. Quarks combine to form composite particles called hadrons, the most stable of which are protons and neutrons, the components of atomic nuclei. Due to a phenomenon known as color confinement, quarks are never directly observed or found in isolation; they can only be found within hadrons. For this reason, much of what is known about quarks has been drawn from observations of the hadrons themselves.
There are six types of quarks, known as flavors: up, down, strange, charm, bottom, and top. Up and down quarks have the lowest masses of all quarks. The heavier quarks rapidly change into up and down quarks through a process of particle decay: the transformation from a higher mass state to a lower mass state. Because of this, up and down quarks are generally stable and the most common in the universe, whereas strange, charm, top, and bottom quarks can only be produced in high energy collisions (such as those involving cosmic rays and in particle accelerators).
Quarks have various intrinsic properties, including electric charge, color charge, spin, and mass. Quarks are the only elementary particles in the Standard Model of particle physics to experience all four fundamental interactions, also known as fundamental forces (electromagnetism, gravitation, strong interaction, and weak interaction), as well as the only known particles whose electric charges are not integer multiples of the elementary charge. For every quark flavor there is a corresponding type of antiparticle, known as antiquark, that differs from the quark only in that some of its properties have equal magnitude but opposite sign.
Elsewhere on the web, I managed to get a short dictionary definition of the squark:
Squark: a quark with an electric charge of -1/3 and a mass 988 times that of an electron and a strangeness of -1
I hope that these explanations have shed some light on the whole business for you. But just in case ‘The New Physics’ is still a bit of a mystery, let me reproduce part of the transcript for an episode of the ABC Television science program, Catalyst, first broadcast in mid-2013 and titled Custom Universe – fine-tuned for us? All the professors that matter were there to answer the narrator’s questions – Paul Davies, Leonard Susskind, Brian Greene, Charley Lineweaver, Lawrence Krauss – plus some lesser eminences, doctors Sean Carroll and Graeme Phillips.
Let me quote from a small part of the script, near the beginning:
NARRATION: Some take fine-tuning as evidence that God created the universe. You can imagine physicists’ horror at the thought. But what other explanation could there be? Well, we’ve hit the road to find some answers from some of the top physicists in the world.
Dr Graham Phillips: And let me warn you – we encounter some pretty mind-boggling ideas.
NARRATION: Everything from black holes to the God particle – the Higgs boson – to some really bizarre ideas, like the possibility of twin mes (sic) living in parallel worlds.
Professor Lawrence Krauss: There could be an infinite number of Graham Phillips. There could be an infinite number of me. There could be a universe in which I’m interviewing you.
NARRATION: And our universe may not even be real.
Dr Sean Carroll: It’s true. Aliens could have created our universe.
Professor Brian Greene: Yeah, there’s a real possibility that we are living inside some elaborate computer simulation that perhaps some futuristic kid has set up in his garage.
From this point forward, the conversation did not actually degenerate (that would have been impossible), but this showing of modern scientific rigour continued in much the same vein to explore, in a little more depth, the Multiverse, the Anthropic Principle, String Theory, etc. As philosopher Mary Midgley once observed, “vast and gratifying conclusions about cosmic matters are drawn directly from very slender theoretic arguments, arguments that are often scarcely scrutinized because they peep out only briefly, like very early mammals, from a protective thicket of equations.” You should note, in particular, the Catalyst narrator’s opening statement. in which he speaks of the ‘horror’ attending any notion of a universe designed by God. This, presumably was to satisfy the concerns of the good Professor Krauss, a vehement atheist, who once teamed with Richard Dawkins (vasta mole superbus) to give us The Unbelievers.
The reason for these various ‘explanations’ is that the astrophysicists and particle physicists are beset by a problem that has only arisen in recent times – their calculations point to the near impossibility of the particular conditions attending the consequences of the Big Bang as having occurred purely by chance. As David Berlinski has noted ‘The willingness of physical scientists to explore such strategies in thought might suggest to a perceptive psychoanalyst a desire not so much to discover a new idea as to avoid an old one’.
But the problem is not just confined to the new physics. In biology, a similar sort of problem arises. As our knowledge of biochemical processes increases, it becomes ever more difficult to explain the appearance of life on Earth via the standard sort of evolutionary approach. This, of course, in no way dents the enthusiasm of the apostles of scientific salvation who resort to stratagems not unlike those of the physicists mentioned above. If the chances of molecules coming together in some primeval soup to form a DNA molecule are so remote as to preclude this mechanism (in consideration of the time available and the total number of molecules available) then we simply opt for the multiverse, like the physicists. Others have suggested that our planet may have been ‘seeded’ with life from another world.
Keeping in mind the various ‘scientific’ scenarios offered by the physicists mentioned above, it is instructive to move to a very different forum. In October, 2004, members of the Dover Area School Board in Pennsylvania, decided that they would allow students to be given access to an alternate theory of biogenesis – one that involved the postulate of intelligent design (but with no mention of the nature of the intelligence – i.e. this was not an argument for God, merely one for an unspecified intelligent designer). The result of this move was predictable. The scientific puritans, not unlike Zeal-of-the-land Busy, that figure from playwright Ben Jonson’s play Bartholomew Fair, descended upon this modern Bartholomew Fair, crying of enormity. In the following year, a suit was brought in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania seeking ‘declaratory and injunctive relief’ from this monstrous perversion of science. The American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the aptly named law firm, Pepper Hamilton LLP, protested that this move violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. If I told you that, amongst the witnesses for the plaintiff was a Roman Catholic theologian and the Landegger Distinguished Professor of Theology at Georgetown University, you might be surprised. I am not.
Naturally, the plaintiffs won the case. In delivering his verdict, Judge John E. Jones III, was of the opinion that the Establishment Clause forbids not just ‘teaching’ religion, but any governmental action that endorses or has the primary purpose or effect of advancing religion’. So much for ‘One Nation Under God’!
Let us, for the moment, pass over the fact that when Professor Greene and Dr Carroll, offer the possibility of a super-intelligent being setting up our universe for us (and they are not the only scientists who have offered such a possibility) this is quite OK. The problem with the Dover School mob is that some of them were known to be Christians with fundamentalist tendencies, and might therefore believe that God had a hand in creating the universe. Never mind that the G word was not mentioned. The witch-smellers-pursuivant had all the evidence they needed.
In the two examples I have given above – the one from theoretical physicists and the other from the Darwinian zealots – something other than ‘science’ is at work. It is, in fact, scientism –a religious view of the world which is very much part of the spirit of the age. It is a religious view because it is motivated by faith in the great secular vision of ontological naturalism, not by any ‘rules of science’ (there are none). Any sort of ‘scientific’ explanation, however ridiculous, can be mustered in for service, provided it does not imply the operation of a deity. And the reason is simple. Traditional religious belief and the sort of belief required by scientism are in direct competition. Scientism, in short, is that belief system whereby ‘science’ is elevated to the position of a cosmological explanation – a theory of everything, including religious belief itself. It is, itself, a religion for those atheists who require a cosmological explanation as a salve for existential angst and a sort of immunisation against the horror of pure contingency. They want all things to be ‘pure and natural’ – just like the advert for certain soaps and remedies for constipation.
We should not be bullied into submission by these people. Some time ago, the well-known American philosopher, Thomas Nagel (an unbeliever, incidentally) put the matter this way:
My skepticism is not based on religious belief, or on a belief in any definite alternative. It is just a belief that the available scientific evidence, in spite of the consensus of scientific opinion, does not in this matter rationally require us to subordinate the incredulity of common sense. That is especially true with regard to the origin of life. The world is an astonishing place, and the idea that we have in our possession the basic tools needed to understand it is no more credible now than it was in Aristotle’s day. That it has produced you, and me, and the rest of us is the most astonishing thing about it.
He went on to elaborate concerning the sorts of claims I have been discussing above:
I find it puzzling that this view of things should be taken as more or less self-evident, as I believe it commonly is. Everyone acknowledges that there are vast amounts we do not know, and that enormous opportunities for progress in understanding lie before us. But scientific naturalists claim to know what the form of that progress will be, and to know that mentalistic, teleological, or evaluative intelligibility in particular have been left behind for good as fundamental forms of understanding. It is assumed not only that the natural order is intelligible but that its intelligibility has a certain form, being found in the simplest and most unified physical laws, governing the simplest and fewest elements, from which all else follows. That is what scientific optimists mean by a theory of everything. So long as the basic laws are not themselves necessary truths, the question remains why those laws hold.
I agree entirely with these sentiments. Nagel has done no more than bring these scientistic assertions before the bar of common sense and look at them in what David Hume once called ‘the warm sunshine of the mind’. Cloud chambers, on the other hand, operate in conditions of low visibility.
Dr B.J. Coman, a retired rabbit poisoner frequent contributor to Quadrant, is the editor of Connor Court Quarterly and the author of A Loose Canon. Look for his upcoming book, Against the Spirit of the Age, later this year
, Mary Midgley, Science as Salvation: A Modern Myth and its Meaning (Gifford Lectures; 1990).
 The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions, Basic Books.
 Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 2012, pg. 7.
 Ibid, pg. 20.